by Heather Frese, COW president
The COW kids have been busy as, well, let’s not mix too many animals into this article and just say that the COW kids have been busy this year. The Council of Writers is the official MFA student organization, and this year we continued to provide opportunities for MFAs to share their work, engage in social occasions, and generally revel in creative writing awesomeness.
COW kicked off fall semester by sending out welcome packets to the incoming MFAs. Led by Publications Coordinator Christina Rothenbeck, the welcome packets contained information about WVU and Morgantown (PRT! Rail Trail! Nonexistent parking!), as well as profiles of current MFAs. The packets were successful endeavor despite the fact that an erroneous “L” was inserted into Shane Stricker’s name. We were all surprised to find out that Shane was not Mr. “Strickler,” as we’d been led to believe.
The MFA meet-and-greet, a festive potluck occurrence, was held at COW secretary Kelly Sundberg’s house in late August. The meet-and-greet was well-attended by faculty, new and returning students, and families, including several small children. Delicious food was consumed, wine drunk, and race cars shared. I’ll leave it to you to decide who did which activity.
COW and EGO, the English Graduate Organization, teamed up in October to rock out the annual book sale/bake sale fundraiser. Thanks to their donations of books, sumptuous baked goods, and time manning check-out tables, COW raised over $500, which we put towards our visiting writer in April, and EGO was able to fund the keynote speaker for the graduate colloquium in March.
The fall reading took place in November and was emceed by COW treasurer Alex Berge. Featured readers and Joinery (the biannual MFA publication) participants were Rebecca Schwab in fiction, Christina Wulf in non-fiction, and Charity Gingerich in poetry. Despite a slippery Zenclay driveway, MFAs and faculty turned out to hear one another read.
In February, many members of COW attended the AWP conference in Washington, D.C. Panels, bookfairs, and readings by Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz were attended, elbows rubbed with editors and agents, and WVU’s tenth anniversary party was hosted by Mark Brazaitis’ mother. I’m still bitter that D.C.’s subway, bus system, and freezing rain foiled my attempts to attend.
The month of March saw several harbingers of springdaffodils, robins, and the MFA spring reading at Zenclay. This semester’s reading featured fictioneer Aaron Hoover, poet Christina Rothenbeck, and Elissa Hoffman in non-fiction. The event was once again hosted by Alex Berge and co-ghost-hosted by alum Aaron Rote, who, perhaps in an altered state, helped Alex write introductions to all of the readers. The event saw record attendance, a result I’d like to attribute to the addition of the RAFFLEMANIA! fundraiser. COW raffled off books donated by faculty and alumni, gift certificates procured by first-year Connie Pan, and various exotic items that Rebecca Schwab and I found at Goodwill, including, but not limited to, a one-antlered deer made of twigs, a sparkly monarch butterfly wall-hanging, and mysterious crocheted chicken.
In April we welcomed COW’s spring reader, Mike Czyzniejewski (several seminars were held on the pronunciation of his last name). The editor-in-chief of Mid-American Review and author of the book of short stories Elephants in Our Bedroom, Mike traveled from the flatlands of Bowling Green, Ohio, to the hills of Morgantown. Mike didn’t appear to suffer from altitude sickness, and held a mini-workshop for MFA students and gave a stellar reading.
The month of May promises the election of new COW officers and a belated Cinco de Mayo party (Siete de Mayo? Why not?) that will serve as a post-thesis defense and pre-graduation celebration for Third Years. It’s been an amazing year, and I’d like to thank everyone who worked so hard to make these events possible, including COW officers Rachel King (vice-president), Alex Berge (treasurer), Kelly Sundberg (secretary), and Christina Rothenbeck (publications coordinator), and all those MFAs who read, baked, donated, set up, took down, procured, raffled, attended, and were, quite simply, fantastic. It’s been a wonderful ride, and in the end, I kind of wish we could do it all over again.